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January 17, 2024

Feeding the Homeless Opens the
Eyes and Hearts of MAN UP

By:  Jatika Hudson

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“It feels great serving and uplifting people in our community, to know we helped someone in need have a better day by giving them a hot meal, it’s truly a blessing” said Mikel, a first-year mentee of MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP).

 

The teens of the Orlando community-based organization experienced an eye-opening exchange during their community service work at the Christian Service Center (CSC) while feeding the homeless.

Tris James, volunteers as the Experiential Learning coordinator for MAN UP and professionally serves as the Prison Rape Elimination Act coordinator for the Orange County Department of Corrections. She shared that her time overseeing the community service activity was elevated with the presence and work ethic of the organization’s male mentees. “My heart grew so big. I am not a soft person, but it really touched my heart to see how much they wanted to serve in the Spirit of Excellence,” recalled James.

Helping the less fortunate is a passion for James and one she hopes to cultivate in the hearts of the mentees. She was extremely pleased with how serious, polite, and friendly the young men were with the tasks of serving meals and cleaning up the site, “I was impressed that they got outside of themselves, and they were so observant," she said. “They were very responsible and respectful. They truly demonstrated servant leadership at its best, it seemed as if they couldn’t do enough.”

The CSC serves up to 200 meals a day, and even though some of the clients are gainfully employed, they still need help with getting food for themselves and their families. This harsh reality was unknown to the male mentees and gave them insight as to what it takes to take care of a home and family.

Another key takeaway that James wanted the mentees to realize is although they might see difficult situations in their own homes, they are still very blessed. “I want them to be grateful for what they have,” James explained. “To realize that they are truly blessed to have a roof over their heads, shoes on their feet and clothes on their backs and that there’s always somebody that has more dire needs than them and there are always ways they can help their community.”

“Seeing boys our age, old neighbors and surprisingly family members, was extremely sad,” the mentees murmured. A long-time volunteer at the CSC shared an invaluable life lesson, reminding the young men that the company you keep will influence the choices you make and your future. Unfortunately, he learned this lesson the hard way, after serving years in prison.

It was apparent, as the mentees volunteered, that their help went above and beyond what they were called to do. “One of the clients was experiencing a technological issue with her digital device and a few of the young men respectfully stepped-up to assist and treated her with dignity,” James recalls witnessing in the moment.

Even at the end of the day, the mentees were helpful cleaning the serving area and making sure they cast their vote to volunteer there again. “Just because the people had disappeared, they took the initiative to clean up,” James says with amazement. “Nobody ducked and dodged and ran away. It was a wonderful sight to see. All of them said, ‘can we come back? We want to do this again next month.”

James would like the mentees to do research and tell her where they would like to volunteer next. She went on to share, “I don’t care if it’s the animal shelter. I want to see where their hearts land about serving their community.” If she has anything to do with it, they will know, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth,” Shirley Chisolm.

About MAN UP Mentoring, Inc:

 

MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP) is community-based 501c (3) organization and an affiliate of My Brother’s Keeper Orlando primarily serving at-risk youth ages 11 through completion of high school or the equivalent across Metro Orlando, with a focus on delinquency prevention and intervention by providing social, educational and mentoring services. Established in 2014 by Orlando natives, brother and sister duo Christopher and Samantha Wallace. Currently, it is managed by an executive director, contractors, and a full-time staff of volunteers. MAN UP is overseen by a Board of Directors with more than 150 years of law enforcement and civilian experience, as well as advisors from the Orange County Public-school System and social services. Visit manupmentoring.com

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